Decompressive hemicraniectomy decreases mortality and severe disability from space-occupying middle cerebral artery infarction in selected patients. However, attitudes towards hemicraniectomy for dominant-hemispheric stroke have been hesitant. This systematic review and meta-analysis examines the association of stroke laterality with outcome after hemicraniectomy.
We performed a systematic literature search up to 6th February 2020 to retrieve original articles about hemicraniectomy for space-occupying middle cerebral artery infarction that reported outcome in relation to laterality. The primary outcome was severe disability (modified Rankin Scale 4‒6 or 5‒6 or Glasgow Outcome Scale 1‒3) or death. A two-stage combined individual patient and aggregate data meta-analysis evaluated the association between dominant-lateralized stroke and (a) short-term (≤ 3 months) and (b) long-term (> 3 months) outcome. We performed sensitivity analyses excluding studies with sheer mortality outcome, second-look strokectomy, low quality, or small sample size, and comparing populations from North America/Europe vs Asia/South America.
The analysis included 51 studies (46 observational studies, one nonrandomized trial, and four randomized controlled trials) comprising 2361 patients. We found no association between dominant laterality and unfavorable short-term (OR 1.00, 95% CI 0.69‒1.45) or long-term (OR 1.01, 95% CI 0.76‒1.33) outcome. The results were unchanged in all sensitivity analyses. The grade of evidence was very low for short-term and low for long-term outcome.
This meta-analysis suggests that patients with dominant-hemispheric stroke have equal outcome after hemicraniectomy compared to patients with nondominant stroke. Despite the shortcomings of the available evidence, our results do not support withholding hemicraniectomy based on stroke laterality.

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